Argentinean rabbi tapped as government minister

BUENOS AIRES (JTA) – Argentinean lawmaker Rabbi Sergio Bergman was tapped to serve as Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development.

Bergman, who will start his new position on December 10 when the new government is sworn in, is believed to be the only rabbi serving as a government minister outside of Israel.

Bergman will be part of the Mauricio Macri’s new center right government, after being named by Macri in 2011 to head the his party’s slate of the parliamentary candidates for the Buenos Aires City Municipal Legislature and in 2013 to head the list of National parliamentary candidates, winning both elections. He is the rabbi of the oldest synagogue in Argentina  which is part Fundación Judaica, a network of Jewish institutions founded and led by Bergman.

Bergman is a friend of the Pope Francis, who served as the archbishop of  Buenos Aires prior to his election as pope. The rabbi wrote a book of religious essays, titled  “A Gospel According to Pope Francis,” which praises the Pope as a religious leader,
social worker and political statesman.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Macri on Wednesday to congratulate him on the election victory, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. “Macri told me that relations between Argentina and Israel will now change for the better,” Netanyahu wrote in a post on Facebook.

The new Argentinean government has said it will cancel the pact that Argentina signed with Iran to jointly investigate the bombing of the  AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, a measure welcomed by American Jewish Committee, Latin American Jewish Congress, the Argentinean Jewish political umbrella DAIA, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The agreement has been criticized by Israel and Argentina’s Jews, among others. Iran has been accused of being behind the 1994 AMIA bombing, which killed 85 and injured hundreds.

“We will propose to the Congress to cancel the pact with Iran as we promised in the campaign,” Macri said Monday morning in his first news conference after being elected in a runoff vote the previous day.

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